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Five Tips for Throwing the Perect Bud Bowl Party

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1. When inviting guests, emphasize that you're not throwing a Super Bowl party. You're celebrating a day when millions of people watch a TV show that traditionally has been so boring, the only way to assure viewership is through exciting commercials, including a series that pits Anheuser-Busch bottles and cans against each other in a computer-simulated game that unfolds during the course of the so-called "real" game. Bud Bowl parties are not a vehicle for mass TV watching; they are intended as a vehicle for talking about mass TV watching. Be clear about this. After all, you wouldn't want to embarrass one of the countless sportsaholics who actually believe that Super Sunday is all about football.

2. Be fuzzy on the starting time because it's not easy to find out when the network airs the opening nanosecond of the Bud Bowl. Before my first Bud Bowl party, I called the TV station for the exact starting time and was told that commercial scheduling is "proprietary information." In other words, not having bought the airtime, I didn't have the right to know the schedule. So unless you have connections and can learn the time of the first Bud Bowl spot, you may want to tell guests "The party officially starts shortly after the Super Bowl begins."

3. Locate all food and drink in a room that doesn't have a TV. Choose a designated viewer whose job it will be to actually watch the Super Bowl and alert partygoers when the next Bud Bowl segment begins. Take turns so nobody gets stuck in front of the tube all afternoon, or be sure to invite a junkie who is hooked on National Football League programming. If properly sedated through an endless supply of food and drink, such a sportsaholic may be reliable enough to announce the Bud Bowl spots to the rest of the party.

4. While waiting, gather all other guests in the room with the food and enjoy stimulating conversation.

As host, you may want to break the ice by throwing out a question. For instance, "If Anheuser-Busch gave you the $800,000 it is wasting this year to buy each 30 seconds of airtime, how would you spend it?" A good follow-up is "How long do you suppose it will be until Super Bowl advertisers are paying $1 million for a half minute of air?"

Also try tackling some of the day's big questions, such as: "How long do you suppose it will be until TV execs mount similar ad campaigns during equally iffy programs like the World Series, the Mobil Oil Cotton Bowl, and the Wide World of Sports Professional Bowling Tour?" Another good one is: "Could the Bud Bowl be the TV-sports industry's first step toward replacing human athletes with computerized figures who will not get injured, demand long-term contracts, or make controversial statements to the press?"

Tread lightly. Even people who consume sports in moderation actually believe that those guys down on the field are more important to this business than the cameramen and other TV crew members. If partygoers get contentious, try changing the mood with a game called "Bud Bowl Moments," which tests contestants' knowledge of Bud Bowl lore. (Sample question: Which Bud Bowl was decided on a turnover? Answer: In Bud Bowl II, a Bud bottle recovered a fumble in the snowy Bud Light end zone to win the game; AB's last commercial closed with a postgame interview in which the hero stuck out its label and snarled about being "King of Beers.")

Be prepared if someone becomes irrational. A sign of trouble would be if a guest started blabbering about the Bud Bowl being "only a commercial--what matters is the game on the field." Change the subject to food, Frank Sinatra, the weather, anything. You must diffuse emotions, keep people festive. You're probably dealing with someone who believes that a professional sporting event's final score has meaning above and beyond its effect on the point spread, newspaper sales, ad ratings, and contracts for employees of various mass-media subsidiaries. Act accordingly.

5. Remember that opening people's minds to the truth about sports is a long-term responsibility. One Bud Bowl party cannot cure a sportsaholic. Remember too that the goal of any party giver is to send everyone home happy. If the food and drink are plentiful, even the sportsaholic may go away with pleasant memories. You first-time Bud Bowl hosts should consider this the sweetest of victories. Though that guest has just spent four hours staring at a TV, you've planted a seed. This person may yet find that there can be life after sports. So as he or she leaves, be sure and say: "Wait till next year."

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